ISLAMABAD: The ruling PML-N’s backdoor contacts with the PPP have finally delivered, as the latter has decided to help the bill for new delimitation of constituencies sail through the 104-member Senate where the government lacks majority.
The Constitutional Amendment Bill, 2017 pertains to the fresh delimitation of constituencies in line with the provisional results of the latest census in the light of general elections next year.
The National Assembly had adopted the bill; however, the government has so far failed to get it approved by the Senate despite repeated attempts.
On November 17, voting on the bill was postponed as the required number of lawmakers were not present in the Senate.
The bill needed a two-thirds majority for passage but there were less than 50 lawmakers in the House.
After strenuous lobbying by the ruling PML-N parliamentary leadership, Opposition Leader in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah acceded to the proposal to pass the bill, enabling the ECP to undertake the task of delimitation of the National Assembly seats according to provisional census results without enhancing the total number of seats.
Khursheed Shah had assured the treasury after the adjournment of the previous Senate session and the meeting of Council of Common Interests that path for the delimitation bill had been cleared and it will get through by December 11 — the latest deadline given by the ECP.
It may be recalled that the ECP had twice revised its demand that parliament should adopt the bill or it would move the apex court for permission to hold the upcoming polls on the basis of 1998 census.
Sources said the government had agreed to the PPP's demand that it would hold only one election based on new delimitation.
The Senate is likely to adopt the bill in its session due to start from Monday (tomorrow).
According to the new delimitation of constituencies, Punjab's seats share in the National Assembly will decrease by nine seats, while Islamabad will get one more seat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa five and Balochistan three more. Seats for Fata and Sindh will however remain unchanged.
A senior PPP leader confided to The News that most of party leaders, including Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, wanted to vote for the amendment, but the Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari had advised them against doing it.
A PPP senator told The News that a list of eight major demands relating to the population census results’ re-checking had been presented to the government, which was accepted.
“Now we are ready to get the said amendment approved from the Senate,” he said.
The ruling PML-N doesn’t have the required two-thirds majority in the 104-member Senate to get the bill passed. In this scenario, the N-League needs the opposition parties’ support for approval of the amendment.
Giving details of demands, the senator said the PPP’s narrative of post-census enumeration was very justified.
The PPP demanded that a Census Verification Commission consisting of three recognised demographers should be appointed with mutual consultation for three months to submit its final report after rechecking results.
The party further demanded the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics should not have any role in the commission and the census block to be included in the Post Census Enumeration (PSE) should be selected on random sampling programme by computer on district level.
He said the condition of showing Nadra identification also excluded those having no identity cards. The senator said the PES should be conducted in randomly selected blocks on de-facto method, which counts every resident who was in a place of residence the previous night. And as per international practice, curfew should be imposed in the selected blocks for a day to carry out the Post Enumeration Survey in a professional manner. The army should not be involved with enumeration as was done in the Census 2017, he concluded.
Giving technical details, he said enumeration should be done on templates and the data transmitted on line after counting each house to the office of the commission and the provincial government.
To make it authentic, the UN Population Fund can also be given consultancy services to give technical inputs for the Census Commission to carry out the PES in an internationally-recognised manner.
Talking to this correspondent, Senator Salim Mandviwala, who’s very close to Asif Ali Zardari, said the PPP had yet to take any decision to vote on this important amendment.
“We are discussing the issue with other parties in the Senate. The senators of different parties have reservations about this amendment approved by the NA, and we are trying to remove them," he said.
PTI Senator Mohsin Aziz denied any such consultation, as his party had not been approached by the PPP nor had his party shown any reservations about this important amendment passed by the NA.
He further said his party wanted to approve the amendment as soon as possible so that a hurdle in its way could be removed.
The National Assembly passed the 24th Constitution Amendment Bill 2017 by 242-1 vote on November 16, paving way for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to carry out fresh delimitation of constituencies ahead of the next general elections on the basis of provisional census data.
It is worth mentioning that the 24th Constitution Amendment demanded the audit of 5pc of census blocks.
The issue of conducting fresh delimitation of constituencies had been stuck in deadlock for several days till the CCI agreed to hold the elections on the basis of provisional census results on the condition that a third-party audit of one per cent of population blocks would be conducted within three months.